August 2, 2011

Interview with Debra Goodman, Physical Therapist

Debra is a fantastic physical therapist specializing in pregnancy and postpartum fitness in the Capital Region. I had the pleasure of taking her prenatal exercise class when I was pregnant with Micah. Besides learning great exercises and feeling relaxed after each class, I also made great connections with other women in the class. I started to get sciatica in one hip starting at about 20 weeks pregnant, and after one private session with Debra, the pain nearly disappeared instantly. I've been recommending her class to all my pregnant friends ever since. In this interview Debra shares a bit about her own motherhood experience and offers practical tips for all expecting and postpartum moms. Enjoy!

How did you get interested in physical therapy and decide to pursue it as a career?
Growing up I was a dancer, so I was always interested in exercise and how the body worked.  Originally, when I went to PT school, my goal was to work with professional dancers.  After graduation, I moved to NYC and worked at a clinic in Manhattan.  We were the therapists for New York City Ballet, School of American Ballet, and Julliard.  We also saw tons of modern and Broadway dancers.  It was a lot of fun, and I was fortunate to work with great manual therapists.  Eventually though, I became interested in women's health and started changing my focus.  After taking courses on treatment of the pelvic floor, I saw how effective manual treatment of the pelvic floor was in helping many different lumbo/pelvic/hip problems.  I also became interested in prenatal exercise and began training to learn how to each that kind of prgram.  After four years of dance medicine, I opened my own practice with a new focus in women's health with an emphasis in prenatal/postpartum physical therapy.

You are well known for helping women with their bodies during pregnancy. Can you tell us about a bit about your pregnancies and how you managed?
I say to women over and over, exercise is the key to a happy, functional, active, and most importantly, painfree pregnancy.  I practiced what I preach.  I exercised throughout my pregnancy and felt great.  I worked until the day I gave birth.

You have a wonderful pregnancy workout class. What are some key exercises you can share with pregnant moms out there that's safe to do at any point during the pregnancy?
The following exercises are helpful for mimimizing the diastasis recti (abdominal separation), stabilizing the spine and pelvis, reducing low back pain and restoring abdominal tone after pregnancy.

Seated Transverse Abdominal Exercises: Seated with body weight centered over pelvis, shoulders back, place hands over belly
30 Second Hold:  Begin with a belly breath, then exhale and contract abdominals by drawing the belly button all the way to the spine.  Imagine you are touching the spine with the belly button.  Hold it here counting out loud for 30 counts.  Recommended 5 sets per day.

Repeating Transverse:  Same position as above.  This exercise is a pulsed contraction.  Begin exercise with a belly breath, then exhale and draw abdominals to the spine.  This is the starting position.  Hold this contraction for a count, and then release the muscles half way out.  Repeat this back and forth motion.  Count out loud for 50 repetitions. 
Recommended: 2 sets of 50 reps per day 
***These exercises may also be performed on hands and knees.

Pelvic Tilts:  Lying on back, knees bent, small space under lower back.  Begin with a belly breath and exhale while drawing the belly button to the spine.  Next, engage the lower rectus by gently pressing the low back to the floor and rocking the pubic bone toward the naval.  
Recommended: 1 set of 10 reps per day 
***This exercise may also be performed on hands and knees, and standing with knees flexed.

Postpartum bodies also need love and care. What are your recommendations for active moms who want to get back to their normal workout routine? What are some things to watch out for?
Most women are extremely anxious to get their pre-baby bodies back as quickly as possible, and I totally understand that.  I felt that way too.  However, it takes time to restore the integrity of the abdominals and the pelvic floor.  The body goes through major changes during pregnancy, and it takes time and effort to restore the body.  Women need to go slowly when returning to their normal exercise programs and careful attention needs to be placed on abdominal, pelvic floor (core) strenthening as well as postural alignment.  The above exercises along with kegels are a good place to start.  If women are experiencing incontinence, pain, or weakness as they return to their exercise program, those are indications that they are pushing past what their bodies are ready to do.  For more details, please see my article on postpartum rehab.

Any last thoughts or advice you'd like to share on pregnancy and childcare?
Motherhood is the most physical job women will ever do.  It is constant manual labor.  Women need to be strong to handle these tasks.  Gentle strengthening and stretching should begin during pregnancy and needs to continue after the baby is born.  Keeping up with an exercise program is much more difficult after the baby is born.  I always recommend that women try to exercise with their babies present.  Place a mat on the floor and set up the baby's activity mat next to it.  That way Mommy and Baby can both do their exercises at the same time.  If the weather is good, put the baby in the stroller and walk.  Bring an exercise band along and stop at intervals to do arm exercises, leg exercises or stretches.  Get creative.  If women set up this routine from the beginning, then the baby learns that exercise time is a normal part of the daily routine.  This teaches the baby that exercise is important and sets a good example.  Also, NEVER feel guily about putting your baby in the gym daycare while you exercise.  The baby will get used to it, and that hour is extremely important for your health, body, and sanity!

Thanks Deb for your valuable advice! Your expertise is invaluable in the Capital Region, we're so glad to have you here. Remember to check out Debra's website for up to date information about classes and more great resources.


  1. You also gain certain health benefits from toning your muscles. abdominal exercise can give you an energy boost and being fit and active keeps your immune system boosted for added benefit.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...